Things aren’t going so well for Lady Croft in the opening of ‘Guardian of Light’. Having led a local warlord to a sacred artefact, its removal triggers the release of an age old demon who was imprisoned way back in the past. The demon’s release prompts the awakening of one of the guardians, whose task it is to make sure the demon never escapes. Bit of a failure on his part to be honest – that’s at least a week’s suspension without pay.
I’m going to be upfront – if you download Guardian of Light expecting an epic narrative then you are going to be disappointed. The story is weak, and the evil demon is such a stereotypical bad guy he might as well go “bwah ha ha I’m EVIL’ at the end of every sentence…actually he pretty much does. If I hear that “the rivers are going to run red with your blood” one more time I may just cry.
The odd thing is though, instead of ruining the game the lack of narrative and character development actually works wonders as it means there are no fancy CGI cutscenes to distract the player from any gameplay weaknesses – and it also means the game is crammed with what it should be – puzzles and combat.
The newest addition to the Croft universe is the isometric viewpoint and fixed camera – meaning you always view the action panned out and from above. I found this viewpoint to be a hit and miss affair. It generally works well, but there are occasions where a precise jump will be missed, or an enemy will get you purely because you couldn’t see properly. There were also a couple of instances of getting stuck behind scenery. Saying that though, at least there aren’t any of the wayward cameras issues that have plagued the Tomb Raider franchise.
Every level of the Guardian of Light is broken down into several parts. There is the main objective – which is normally getting from A to B whilst solving puzzles in between. Then there are various challenges which pop up on the screen at various locations.
This is a great addition and makes proceedings far more interesting – for example, instead of merely walking from the start of one room to the end, if you manage it without touching the floor you will have completed a specific challenge and will be rewarded accordingly. It also adds a fair bit of replay value, as there are some timed challenges that you won’t be able to do first time around simply because it will have taken you by surprise, and you will have run out of time.
If you stray off the beaten track you will also encounter various ‘Challenge Tombs’. Some are located in plain sight, whilst others take a bit more exploration to find. These tombs house various useful artefacts which can be equipped, or upgrades that make you more powerful. This sounds great, but the artefacts are guarded by some of the games harshest puzzles, requiring you to use your brain whilst also showing quick reflexes. Again this is a great addition, and completionists will enjoy scouring the levels and then pitting their wits against the computer.
This brings me to the highlight of the game – the puzzles. Despite the moniker missing from the title I feel this game is more of a Tomb Raider title than anything else that has been released in the last few years. Puzzles can vary from straightforward ‘stand on the switch to progress’ to much more complex designs that span multiple floors and require the completion of several objectives before the main puzzle is solved. I found the puzzles to be pitched at just the right difficulty – hard enough to make you think, but not to ruin the flow of the levels. Occasionally puzzles will be broken up by an ‘escape’ type level, where you have to flee from parts of the level, or a giant creature. I found these to be slightly annoying, as they rely a bit too much on trial and error – and coupled with the isometric viewpoint just led to frustration.
When things get dicey Lara puts away here puzzle hat and reaches for her guns – and for once gunplay is enjoyable! It sounds odd but the control scheme reminds me a bit of the Xbox 360 Arcade title ‘Geometry Wars’. The left stick controls Lara, whilst the right controls the direction of fire. You will encounter many weapons throughout the game, as well as the gold spear you are given at the start, which can also be jammed into walls and used as a step. Four weapons can be equipped at any one time and assigned to the D-Pad, meaning hot swapping is simply a case of pressing the corresponding button.
At times I did miss even the hint of an auto aim system – as once again the isometric view rears its ugly head and causes problems. Trying to judge the angle of an enemy in the distance can get quite tricky. When they are up close and personal things are fine though, and when overrun Lara has a nimble dodge manoeuvre which flips her to safety.
Graphically the game does well – with some nice lighting effects and varied environments. The same can’t be said for the enemy design though, as they look a bit generic and are instantly forgettable. I did experience a bit of slow-down in places too – hardly a game breaker but disappointing none the less.
You may have noticed that I have yet to mention the much touted online co-op play. Unfortunately the patch for that has yet to be released. There is offline co-op, but as I live in the wilderness I couldn’t test that out with anyone. During co-op one player takes control of Lara, whilst another takes control of guardian ‘Totec’. As they both have different skills the players must work together to solve various puzzles.
- Great puzzles
- A good challenge
- Lots of replay value
- Very little padding
- Isometric view is sometimes a pain
- ‘Escape’ levels are frustrating
- Some generic enemy designs
- Where’s my online co-op!
Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light is a tough one to score. Whilst it does little wrong, it also fails to raise pulses. What the player is left with is a very solid game, with strong puzzle and combat elements that is well worth a look.